BEIJING, May 10 (Xinhua) — A thermal spring rich in the rare gas helium has been identified in Tibet Autonomous Region, and has the potential to be exploited, the Science and Technology Daily reported Thursday.
Researchers from China and the United States believe the helium concentration could be as high as 1.11 percent in some thermal-spring gas in Ali prefecture in Tibet, the newspaper quoted a source of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) as saying.
If helium concentration exceeds 0.1 percent it can be be industrially utilized.
Helium is a colorless and odorless inert gas with a low boiling point. It has been widely used in aerospace, low temperature superconductivity, the nuclear industry and scientific research. The concentration of helium in the atmosphere is only 5.2 parts per million, making the cost of its extraction very high.
In 2001, Chinese researchers with the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the CAS discovered thermal-spring gas with a high concentration of helium at an altitude of 4,340 meters, during a geothermal study. They and U.S. researchers with Stanford University in July gathered the gas samples and recently revealed the test results.
China has low levels of helium, and has relied on imports for a long time. There is only one natural gas field in China that can realize the industrial exploitation of helium.